Cowal Games Berth – and the ‘new’ Engineer.

Supporting the preservation and operation of paddle steamers Waverley and Kingswear Castle

Cowal Games Berth – and the ‘new’ Engineer.

The ‘Cowal Games’ at Dunoon (or the Cowal Highland Gathering to give the event its proper title) is always one of the busiest days in Waverley’s year. In recent years it has begun with a direct Glasgow to Dunoon sailing followed by the ship doubling back to Greenock to pick up her normal Saturday excursion, albeit at later times. In 2009 Waverley used the side berth at Dunoon breakwater for the first time, rather than the end berth where she had been damaged following a heavy landing due to awkward weather and currents. The views below show her arriving at and leaving the ‘new’ berth on Saturday 29th August 2009. (Click on individual pictures for larger, sharper versions) Waverley departing from the inside (or RoRo) berth at Dunoon Breakwater, where she had called for the first time on Friday 28th August 2009. The two navigation buoys in the background between Waverley and the Cloch lighthouse mark the position of the substantially intact wreck of the Swedish bulk carrier Akka which was inbound to Glasgow in April 1956 with a cargo of iron ore for the Lanarkshire steel making furnaces when she hit the nearby Gantock Reef, ripping a gash along her side and causing her to sink quickly on the Dunoon Bank – sadly three of her crew were lost and three others subsequently died in hospital in Greenock. The wreck of the Akka is probably the favourite of divers on the Clyde. Departing Dunoon light (almost) to pick up her normal Saturday itinerary at Greenock Customhouse Quay. A view of the World’s Last Seagoing Paddle Steamer passing the classic buildings on Dunoon’s Victorian steamboat pier. At one time a viewing balcony spanned the two pier buildings – a good vantage point, sadly missed by Clyde steamer and ferry photographers. All the shipping services to Dunnon are busy on Cowal Games weekend – in this view Caledonian MacBrayne’s ferry Saturn (left) had forsaken her normal Arran duties to accompany her quasi sister ship Jupiter and the passenger catamaran Ali Cat on the Gourock-Dunoon service while one of Western Ferries McInroy’s Point – Hunter’s Quay ferries can be seen on the extreme right. A very distant view of Waverley, 3-4 miles distant rounding Roseneath Point, heading back to Dunoon after picking up passengers at Greenock and Helensburgh, the latter town can be seen in the distance behind the paddler. Possibly with the lever of the main steam valve cotrolling the flow of steam to the high pressure cylinder of her triple expansion engine at a mark or two ‘above the E’, Waverley steams steadfastly back towards Dunoon for the second call of the day. In the background is the town of Gourock, its suburb of Ashton and Tower Hill. One of Waverley’s main attractions is her triple expansion reciprocating engine, which is open to full public view. The engine was constructed by the firm of Rankin & Blackmore at the Eagle Foundry in Baker Street, Greenock and fitted to the ship at the Victoria Harbour in Greenock in the early part of 1947 after the new ship had been towed down the Clyde from the A & J Inglis shipyard at Pointhouse on the River Kelvin. With an indicated horsepower rating of 2,100, Waverley’s engine is one of the largest and most powerful engines to be fitted into a British esturial paddle steamer. The low pressure cylinder is 66 inches in diameter and the stroke of the engine is 60 inches. The shipbuilders, A & J Inglis, built many paddle steamers in their 100 year history, supplying not just British coastal fleets but also substantial paddlers to fleets as far afield as South America (the Mihanovich and Entre Rios Railway fleets on the River Plate), Australia (Bay Steaners of Melbourne) and China (Swire’s Yangtse River fleet). The engines for most of these paddlers were supplied by Inglis from their engineering workshops in Warroch Steet, which runs perpendicular to Anderston Quay in Glasgow and from the engine shops in the Pointhouse shipyard. After Inglis’ amalgmation into the huge Harland & Wolff shipbuilding group, the Warroch Street works was part of H&W’s large Finnieston Engine Works. By the end of World War II Inglis had stopped building reciprocating steam engines and, for its last few paddle steamers, subcontracted the manufacture of the engine to Rankin & Blackmore of Greenock, which continued to build that type of engine up to those supplied to Ferguson Brothers of Port Glasgow for the South African Railways & Docks steam tug J R More in the early 1960s. Coincidentally, Daniel Rankin and Edward Blackmore had set up their engineering business about the same time as brothers Anthony & John Inglis has set up their firm in the mid 19th Century. Similarly, the Greenock firm was taken over by a larger company, Lithgow’s of Port Glasgow in their case, in the post WW1 rationalisation. Lithgow’s was the largest family-owned shipbuilding company in the world about that time. Waverley’s engine achieved a speed of 57 rpm, driving the ship at a speed of over 18 knots, when she ran trials over the Skelmorlie Measured Mile in the first few days of June 1947. Nowadays, the engine is normally run at a more economical speed of 40-44 rpm, giving the vessel a through-the-water speed of about 13-14 knots but, since the vessel’s major rebuild in 2003, the engine has run at close to its original speed on a couple of occasions.

The following video shows Waverley’s engine at high speed – the video is reproduced courtesy of Iain McCorkindale, one of the longest serving members of Waverley’s engineering team. After serving for many years in the ship’s boilerroom and as donkeyman, this week (Aug 2009) ‘Corky’ attained the qualifications to enable him to serve as Second Engineer. A great day for Corky and for the Waverley – I am sure than many of the ship’s supporters will join in the congratulations.

In the evening, after returning from Tighnabruaich and Rothesay to Dunoon, Helensburgh and Greenock, the paddler heads back to Dunoon to pick up th large complement of passengers that had come down river from Glasgow in the morning. She is about to pass the large cruise liner Crown Princess, berthed at Greenock Ocean Terminal. Normally visiting cruise liners depart from Greenok between 18:00 and 20:00 in the evening but in August many of the departures are delayed to allow passengers to take in a performance of the world famous Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle. On this occasion Crown Princess departed from Greenock at 02:00 on Sunday 30th August.

Stuart Cameron